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Cat Sims Celebrates Dancing with Our Stars Gala Fundraising Campaign

Written by Meredith Corning | Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography

Local philanthropist, Cat Sims, is kicking off a fundraising campaign for the Children’s Tumor Foundation by becoming a Star in the 2023 Dancing with Our Stars Little Rock Gala. Sims is no stranger to raising funds for a good cause. She has been involved in multiple nonprofit efforts over the years including committee member of CARTI Festival of Fashion Committee (2020-2022), Breath of Life Gala honoree for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation raising over $40,000  (2021), co-chair for Blue Jeans and Bubbles benefiting the Ronald McDonald House (2022), emcee for the Women’s International Gala (2023), chair for the Breath of Life Gala (2023) and now a dancer and honoree for Dancing with Our Stars benefiting the Children’s Tumor Foundation (2023).

Dancing with Our Stars is a fundraising event that benefits the Arkansas chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. It’s an annual event that brings together local celebrities and community members to ballroom dance and raise money for a great cause. The event features a dance competition where each couple performs a choreographed routine and is judged by a panel of experts. The funds raised from the event go toward funding research to find a cure for Neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. It’s a fantastic event that combines fun and philanthropy with a competition component.

Living an Inspirational Life

Growing up, Sims was a trained dancer through her second year of college. Her professional training consisted of classic and modern ballet, ballet en pointe, jazz and clogging. Although she is fairly new to ballroom dancing, she has expressed that she is up for the challenge.

“When I found out I had been chosen as a Star for the 2023 Dancing with Our Stars Gala, I was so excited. I’ve done a lot of philanthropic work over the years but never something with a performance-based element. That does make it a bit more nerve-wracking because I can usually rely on my fundraising skills alone. I danced back in my prime so hopefully it will come back to me,” explains Cat Sims.

Raised in Camden, Arkansas, Sims went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Ouachita Baptist University. This is where she met her now husband, John Sims. The two were married straight out of college and moved several times as John made his way through medical training with Cat’s support to become a head and neck microvascular and reconstructive surgeon. They moved from Little Rock, Arkansas to Rochester, Minnesota, living there for 5 years in order for him to complete his surgical residency at The Mayo Clinic. They then made their way to New York City for his fellowship.

Cat and John Sims moved back to Arkansas almost 3 years ago and John has been serving the people of our state at CARTI in Little Rock as a head and neck microvascular and reconstructive surgeon since. They have a two-and-a-half year-old daughter named Aspen who serves as their primary source of inspiration for the causes they often choose to support.

“My husband is a head and neck and reconstructive surgeon at CARTI and he frequently removes very visible tumors from the face, neck and scalp. It’s very hard to see the effects of having tumors removed in addition to chemotherapy and radiation for any patient demographic. Those types of physically-altering treatments and side effects are especially hard when the patient is young. Children can be quite mean and haven’t developed the skills to be sensitive nor considerate toward their peers who don’t look the way they think kids should. I know first hand what it feels like in those pivotal years to be bullied by peers. Though I can’t say that I know what it feels like to help my child fight NF, I am a mother and I want to help take the tiniest percentage of that fight onto my own shoulders in the coming months as I fight to raise funds for this foundation,” said Cat Sims.

After working in medical device sales in Little Rock and Rochester, Cat Sims eventually switched careers to real estate. Upon moving to New York City, she immediately started working in sales at a well known health club to feed her love of fitness. She is currently a stay-at-home mother and earns a living as a content creator on her social media.

Online Fundraising

The Dancing with Our Stars competition is part online fundraising with a grand in-person gala on the final day. The current online competition fundraising landscape for nonprofits is quite varied and dynamic. To be successful, nonprofits need to be creative and strategic in their fundraising efforts. This often involves leveraging social media and other online marketing channels to reach new donors. It is certainly an exciting time to become involved in this type of campaign whether as a nonprofit, participant or donor.

The Dancing with Our Stars Gala has set up a robust online fundraising strategy by creating friendly and fun competition amongst their Stars. In addition to raising funds, this manner of fundraising creates greater awareness about the nonprofit and their mission.

Here are some tips on how contestants can stand out from the crowd and raise funds during an online fundraising campaign for nonprofits:

  1. Set a clear goal: Make sure you have a clear fundraising goal, and communicate it clearly to your supporters. People are more likely to donate if they know exactly what they are giving to.
  2. Leverage social media: Use social media to promote your fundraising campaign and encourage people to donate. Share your fundraising page on your social media channels and ask your friends, family and followers to share it, as well.
  3. Tell your story: Share your personal story and connection to the nonprofit you are fundraising for. People are more likely to donate if they feel a personal connection to the cause.
  4. Offer incentives: Consider offering incentives to donors, such as shoutouts on social media or personalized thank you notes. This can encourage people to donate more and can also help build a relationship with your donors.
  5. Host fundraising events: Consider hosting fundraising events to raise awareness and money for your cause. This could include in-person or virtual events.
  6. Follow up with donors: After someone donates, make sure to follow up with a thank you message. This can help build an ongoing relationship for future fundraising efforts.

Celebrating Her Journey

In order to kick off her Dancing with Our Stars fundraising campaign in true “Cat Sims style,” she co–hosted a dinner party with Vibrant Occasions Catering in her home with a few of her favorite fellow content creators dubbed, Dinner on the River. The dinner party served as a celebration for this dancing journey she is embarking on.

Each Star is appointed a fundraising link whereby anyone can donate to her campaign at any time throughout the fundraising time period over the next several months until the gala takes place on Thursday, September 7, 2023 at the Wally Allen Ballroom in Little Rock, Arkansas. Cat Sims has set a goal to raise $45,000. Interested parties can donate to Cat Sims’ campaign at the following link:


Cat Sims will be competing against other local philanthropists including Tanya James with Arvest Bank, Nathan Kirby with Rock City MMA, Gina Radke with Galley Support Innovations, Luke O’Gary with Keet O’Gary Construction and Burt Hicks with Encore Bank. Dance partners for each contestant will be announced soon.

Vendors and sponsors involved with the kick-off fundraising campaign celebration dinner party …

Co-host & Star: Cat Sims, @catsimsxoxo

Co-host & Private Event Catering: Vibrant Occasions, @vibrantoccasionscatering

Floral Design: Rose of Sharon Floral Design Studio, @roseofsharonfloral

Photography: Lori Sparkman Photography, @lorisparkmanphotography

Music: Central Arkansas Entertainment Agency, @cae_lr

DJ: DJ Jellybean, @djjbean

Planner & Party Designer: Meredith Events, @meredithevents

Public Relations: Meredith Corning PR, @meredithcorningpr

Videography: KB Studios, @kbstudiosar

Balloon Photo Backdrop: Just Peachy, @justpeachylr

Dinnerware Rentals: Eventology, @eventology_us

Wardrobe Stylist: Kimberly Cyr Calhoun, @kimberlycyr

Wardrobe Retailer: Royal We, @royalweprom

Special Guests & Content Creators: @tabithanstaylor, @alexa_hart_, @kailux, @kimberlycyr, @lesley_withrow, @jennymartinphoto, @alishacurtis, @sarahkmeyer

Dinner on the River video: https://youtu.be/DqaMbzzqxzI

Inviting Arkansas

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